Byton Co-Founder Kirchert Considers Joining Evergrande NEV

Daniel Kirchert, the former chief executive officer and co-founder of EV startup Byton Ltd., is considering joining China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd., according to people familiar with the matter.

Kirchert was spotted at the Guangzhou headquarters of Evergrande NEV earlier this week and the company has been in talks with him about an executive role for several months, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are private.

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A representative for Evergrande NEV didn’t respond to requests for comment. Kirchert also didn’t respond to several messages seeking comment.

Luring an executive like Kirchert would be a coup for the electric-car arm of one of China’s biggest property developers, which is yet to mass produce and sell vehicles despite big ambitions. Kirchert spent several years at BMW AG in Munich before joining the European carmaker in China to spearhead its push in the world’s largest automobile market. He co-founded Byton in 2016 and was CEO when he quit in October.

Evergrande NEV has bold plans to take on Tesla Inc., with its billionaire shareholder Hui Ka Yan declaring back in March 2019 that he can be the biggest EV manufacturer in the world within three to five years. That hasn’t happened and seems a long way off. Evergrande NEV has conducted a few test drives and unveiled a range of show models but done little beyond that.

Regardless, investors have pushed the Hong Kong-listed group’s shares up almost 90% this year and plowed in billions of dollars as EV mania grips the stock market. Shareholders will get some further insight into Evergrande NEV’s progress when it reports full-year earnings later on Thursday. Evergrande NEV’s market value is around $67 billion, more than Ford Motor Co. at $48 billion.

Byton, which has never sold a car either, suspended its operations in China at the beginning of July as it grappled with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. In January, Foxconn Technology Group signed a manufacturing deal with the embattled startup with the aim to start mass production of the Byton M-Byte by the first quarter of 2022.

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